My dear ones, I can feel the weight you carry, and I sometimes wonder whether it’s yours to bear. I hear you as you gather before worship, in your prayers, and in the whispers often unspoken about ‘what’s next?’ ‘What’s going to happen?’ ‘How can we keep going?’

Curved Pews

Curved Pews
Photo: Richard Manley-Tannis

I know that you look around and see empty spaces that were once filled with loved ones. You long to acknowledge absent family and friends with a nod, smile or knowing wink. You miss those who reminded you that this sacred place is home. Now, when you shift uncomfortably after hearing about the place the church now holds outside of these walls, you’ve become used to missing and wishing for days that you imagine were better, more familiar.

I have held you in the joy of baptism. Stood firm as wee ones sometimes threatened to slip out of hand, as they wore those shiny bright white outfits! I have anchored you in times of tears and loss. I have witnessed the procession of caskets and urns of those who have died and seen you embrace new vows and covenants over the years.

  • If I could offer you promises that my curved, long back would be here for the generations that will follow, I would …
  • If I could share the stories of the generations of those who have come before you, I would …
  • If I could alleviate the fears before you, please know I would …

But I stand here, holding you as you sit and I remember such history of constant change. Your years and my years are … not measured the same. We count our seasons in different ways. I remember the stones being moved and shaped, mortared and painted as these walls were built, which hold this roof and caress the steeple. I remember trees cut and headstones raised to commemorate the shoulders upon which I, we, and you stand. I can hear the carts follow the river, as the boats of goods travelled the water’s byway long before roads of gravel and then asphalt were even imagined. I remember when the only honking I could hear as season changed from chill to warmth was that of geese. In particular, I remember a time when it was more important to be this or that kind of Christian. I recall when diversity was not valued and defining who you were was dressed in who was not present, not welcomed …

Pews with a Curve

Pews with a Curve
Photo: Dave Lawler

Then something happened … you made some choices a little under 100 of your years ago. When once you would have used ‘Methodist,’ ‘Presbyterian,’ ‘Unionist,’ or ‘Congregationalist’ as a weapon, as an insult, you came together. It wasn’t easy.

I remember (in these very stone walls) those who refused, those who left, and those who judged. But you persevered and the change has not stopped. In your stories, things may seem the same. But from my vantage point – rooted to these old floor boards fashioned from the oak of this land – it has been inspiring to experience worship, which at first was led by only men and later by either men or women. Since then, I have heard the Word delivered about how your gender and your identity are not tied, how sometimes you realise you are born into the wrong body and that you are loved, as people discern what to do with the blessing of technology that can help with allowing for a sense of wholeness. You have embraced diversity, colours, races and sexuality in a way that – if you don’t mind my boldness – would have been incomprehensible during those talks about Union.

I don’t know what lies over the horizon or to where the river will lead you. But I do know that this building has simply been the place where you have transformed lives. And – though difficult – trust me when I say, the building was simply the place where you have done the work of change, it isn’t the work. And – until the doors close – I’ll be here to remind you of something you have always known: your Call isn’t to be in these walls, your Call is to find places and spaces that allow you to be emboldened to help others awaken to their own sacred trust. And, I so sincerely pray, that my whispering voice allows you to let go of some of the weight that I know rests on your heart and – sometimes – keeps you from dressing me with the joy of your song and gaiety of your laughter …

Click to subscribe!